This paper discusses the possibility of forming a photon avalanche in type-II heterostructures with deep quantum wells. The threshold IR light intensities that cause avalanche are hundreds of kilowatts per square centimeter. It is shown that a photon-avalanche mechanism can be used to generate nonequilibrium electron-hole pairs with weak IR light having a photon energy a factor of 3-5 less than the band gap of the semiconductor. The energy to switch the system between states with strong and weak absorption of the pump light ranges from a few to tens of picojoules per square micrometer.

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